“General Conference is full of surprises!”
At least, that’s what I was told by some of the old salts sailing aboard the USS Delegation for their 3rd tour of sea duty. But my first few days in Portland presented nothing that I wasn’t expecting at an international UMC gathering (except maybe the cannabis dispensary next the convention center!).
There were the usual players:
- The Professional Parliamentarians, who are usually found sitting right next to the microphone stand so as not to wear out their wingtips amending this or suspending that.
- The Rainbow People, who seem to have mastered the art of table-flipping.
- The Global Villagers, who speak so many different languages that the Mayor of Babel would be verde with envy.
But then I bumped into a clergy friend who, it turns out, ran/walked 1800 miles to attend this quadrennial meeting in order to highlight the plight of orphans. That, however, was not the surprising part. The real surprise came a few seconds later, when he asked me if I’d like to meet Adam Hamilton.
I don’t think I actually verbalized, “Hell, yeah!”, but that was definitely the first phrase that popped into my head. Adam Hamilton? THE Adam Hamilton? Senior Pastor of the UMC of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas - one of the fastest growing and most highly visible churches in the country, with upwards of 20,000 members? The writer of more books than there are grains of sand in the Holy Land? THAT Adam Hamilton?
As a pastor and a writer, I have long wanted to meet this guy. After all, he does exactly what I do – only much, much better and much, much BIGGER.
Minutes later, I’m standing in front of The Reverend Adam Hamilton, shaking his hand and struggling to say my name without throwing up on his dark blue suit.
Fortunately, my friend is doing the rest of the talking, leaving me to do some reflecting. I begin by joking to myself that between us, Adam and I have written close to 20 books (Adam – 19, Me – 0). But my humor, as usual, is masking some serious self-doubt and insecurity. Enter melancholy orchestration.
Adam is close to my age, close to my size, and close to standing on my shoes – but we are on totally different planets. My God, what have I done with my life?
To be honest, I was already having a less-than-stellar day. It began at breakfast, where instead of being served cinnamon with my oatmeal, the waiter brought me brown sugar. Then, the morning plenary session at General Conference was especially exasperating. And finally, the little plastic thing that prevents my reading glasses from gouging my nose suddenly went AWOL.
To be really honest, what was really bothering me was that my one and only child was celebrating her 18th birthday that day, while her father is 3,000 miles away at yet another “important church meeting”. My God, what have I done with my life?
You see, she is such a great kid who deserves better. She
- is on the Honor Roll
- plays a team sport
- practices an instrument
- eats her vegetables
- studies a foreign language
- is surrounded by good friends who are good people
- has been accepted to a great college
- loves Jesus
- is the only one in the house who doesn’t feed table scraps to our morbidly obese pug
Helping to raise a beautiful, wonderful, and faithful young woman – maybe that’s what I’ve done with my life. Surprise!